Did I ever tell you about my first year in Houston? I lived in this giant, furniture-bare, one bedroom apartment in Montrose without a working stove/oven. I had a stove. It was a gas stove! I was so excited to cook on a gas range again. However, small hiccup, the City of Houston seemed to think my apartment had been vacant for at least a year before I moved it and required a site visit. I made this my landlord’s problem because this issue seemed to be beyond my responsibilities as a renter. (It totally was, but I’ll get to that.) After several failed attempted visits by the City and no progress with my landlord, I gave up about six months into my lease. At that point my building was bought by a new company. I was so over the whole thing, I didn’t event bother bringing it up with the new leasing company. (Big mistake.) Fast forward five months when I’m putting in my notice to not renew my lease. I get a call from the regional manager asking me about my stay and why I wasn’t renewing. I let him have it, politely. I explained the gas situation (among a myriad of other issues), and lo and behold, my building isn’t wired for gas! Why in the world would they put gas ranges in a building that isn’t wired for gas?! Why didn’t my first landlord tell me the building wasn’t wired for gas? Maybe he didn’t know? At any rate, the regional manager totally understood. They ended up giving me my entire deposit back.
As you can imagine, this put a rather significant damper on my cooking options. Fortunately, I had a microwave and slower cooker. I also borrowed from work an electric kettle with a completely removable lid that I used as a hot pot. I will say this whole situation gave me a solid platform to eat a lot more fresh/raw fruits and vegetables.
So, what did I eat in that year without a fully functional kitchen? I used my slow cooker a lot. I always had portions of Budget Bytes Chicken Taco Bowls in the fridge and freezer. Instead of putting it over rice (which requires a stove or magic microwave skills or a rice cooker), I would use it as taco filling and make soft shell tacos instead. Poaching chicken in the slow cooker was great too. I ended up shredding that for chicken salad or sandwiches. I tried to make a mushroom stroganoff in the slow cooker. That was a disaster. It tasted like mustard, but not in a pleasant way. I am a bit ashamed to admit that once I got the hot pot, I made a lot of Pasta Roni. I mean, at a $1 a box, it’s hard to pass up. Plus, you can add vegetables and protein to it. I can’t say that I did add a lot of vegetables and protein to it, but it’s an option that other people can do. Whenever I could, I tried to get other people to let me use their kitchens, which was nice.
Annes, I have to say that year without a kitchen cut me deep. Once I moved into the new apartment complete with actual working gas stove, it took me a few months to get back into the habit of cooking. However, I’m back at it, stronger than ever. Look out for my next letter where I discuss all the dishes my friends and I made for our Harry Potter movie marathon.